WINCHESTER – For Winchester residents who suffered through a few weeks of a really bad smelling countryside a few years ago, there has been a resolution and consequences.

Parmalat Canada Inc., now Lactalis Canada was fingered as the cause for the bad smells and has been convicted of three violations under the Environmental Protection Act, associated with the instances of creating a bad odour with their production method.

The instances come from three separate incidents from Jan. 1, 2017 and ending on or about Sept. 24, 2019.

In an Aug. 25 decision, they were fined $510,000 with additional sentencing that requires the company to make a payment of $110,000 to Queen’s University through a short-term probation order. The probation order was issued to enable the university to purchase equipment to support research activities at the Beaty Water Research Centre. The total penalty issued to Parmalat Canada Inc. is $620,000, and with a victim fine surcharge of $127,500.

A spokesperson for the company said, “Lactalis Canada voluntarily pled guilty to the noted offences under the Environmental Protection Act and accepts the associated fine including the payment to Queen’s University that will benefit the Beaty Water Research Centre. As part of our continued commitment and efforts in mitigating related odours and enhancing the wastewater treatment process, Lactalis Canada completed a three-year, $17.39 million Wastewater Treatment Modernization Project in 2020 to address these issues. As a long-standing member of the Winchester community, Lactalis Canada is proud of its deep ties to the region and places great importance on having a positive impact on the community and the safety and wellbeing of its members.”

North Dundas Mayor Tony Fraser said the company is determined to be a good neighbour and is following best practices.

“They are taking strides to ensure that their operation is efficient and mindful of the environment.”

The mayor added that they have all witnessed the efforts of the company to fix the problem.

“There has been a concerted effort to make sure the right things are being done,” said Fraser.

Parmalat Canada Inc., operates a dairy product manufacturing plant in Winchester. A necessary and crucial part of their production is operating an on-site sewage treatment site. The dairy production process creates wastewater that is run through its sewage plant. The wastewater is treated in the plant to get rid of any contaminants then is discharged to a nearby ditch.

Court documents stated: “During 2017, numerous odour complaints were received by the ministry. The strong odour caused area residents to stay indoors with their windows closed, and to be awoken from their sleep, and in some cases, ultimately seeking sleep accommodations elsewhere.”

In 2017, the company started up a new milk micro-filtration system. This created an increase in wastewater flow out of the plant and the increase exceeded the operating limits set out by the Ministry of the Environment and resulted in the bad smell Winchester residents were complaining about.

Court documents also stated: “The increased flows and high organic loading to the sewage treatment plant resulted in a decrease in effluent quality and a decrease in dissolved oxygen levels, which created septic conditions and significant odour.”

The ministry continued to receive complaints about the bad smell that settled over the area. The complaints came in 2018 and 2019.

Even though Parmalat attempted to minimize the odour discharges, they were not able to stop them completely.

Aware of the complaints and committed to find a solution to the odour issue Parmalat embarked on a $17.39 million project to upgrade its wastewater treatment equipment at the facility to address the cause of the odour.

The odour issue has for the most part been resolved but a spokesperson for the company said their effort to refine their process and ensure the bad smells do not return is ongoing.